Here are five players to keep an eye on for the Blues in the 2020 Investec Super Rugby season.
Finlay Christie (Halfback)
Super Rugby games: 14 – Chiefs (8 – 2017), Hurricanes (6 – 2018-19). Points: 5 (Hurricanes).
Mitre 10 Cup: Tasman 43. Points: Tasman 35
Scotland-born, but raised in New Zealand from the age of seven, halfback Finlay Christie attended Saint Kentigern College and played for the 1st XV. Having appeared for Counties Manukau to Under-19 level, he attended the University of Canterbury in 2015 and in 2016 was named Canterbury's top club rugby player of the year.
Eligible for Scotland, he has remained in New Zealand and has made the move back to Auckland in a quest for more game time. Having developed in TJ Perenara's shadow, he has shown his ability as a member of Tasman's Mitre 10 Cup-winning squad this year and will ensure plenty of competition for the position in the Blues squad. Not only will he renew his acquaintance with his former Tasman coach Leon MacDonald, he will link up again with fellow former Hurricane Beauden Barrett.
Beauden Barrett (First five-eighths/Fullback)
All Blacks Tests: 84, Test points: 649
Super Rugby games: 125 – Hurricanes. Points: 1238
Mitre 10 Cup: Taranaki - 26. Points: 191
Making the switch from Wellington to Auckland represents a significant career change for one of the best players in the world, Beauden Barrett.
A Hurricanes centurion, the 28-year-old will leave Blues fans with bated breath as he will not be available until midway through the season while he takes a break from the game. The hope will be that the Blues can be competitive enough for Barrett to still be able to contribute to the side making a long-awaited deep entry into the playoffs this season.
Whether he follows his inclination to play first five-eighths or fullback will matter little to local fans looking for him to help and spark a potentially exciting backline to action. One man alone can't complete the mindset change the side needs but he could go a long way towards providing some useful encouragement. His presence will be all the more invaluable after losing the experience of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu for 2020.
Tom Robinson (Flanker)
Super Rugby games: 15. Points: 10
Mitre 10 Cup:12 (Northland). Points: 10
The Blues' rookie of the year in 2019 and the players' player, flanker Tom Robinson faces another big season after his outstanding debut year. He was struck down with an ACL injury in the latter part of the Super Rugby campaign and a setback saw him unavailable for all of Northland's Mitre 10 Cup season.
That should have the dynamic Robinson ready for action from the outset of the 2020 campaign. His all-energy game, coupled with fine ball skills, made him an ideal member of the loose forwards and it was enough to see him figuring in potential All Black selection thinking.
It didn't work out that way but he has another opportunity, albeit in the midst of the feared second-season syndrome where he is more well-known to opponents, but if the front five can give him the platform, Robinson and his fellow loosies could be dynamic.
TJ Faiane (Midfield)
Super Rugby games: 31 (Blues). Points: 10
Mitre 10 Cup games: 39 (Auckland). Points: 45
Taking up a senior player role in the backline shapes as a significant development in TJ Faiane's career with the Blues in 2020. He was forced to play more often at centre in 2019, the result of Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams being preferred in his more favoured spot of second five-eighths.
But with both the veterans gone this year, the chance is right for Faiane, the MVP for the Blues in 2019, to step up and make the role his own. A significant leader, he was captain of the Auckland 2018 Mitre 10 Cup-winning side, he shapes to benefit from having Beauden Barrett alongside from the midway point of the season.
One of the better support players in the side, Faiane's skills haven't been best appreciated at times but it will be interesting to see how his game responds in the 2020 campaign.
Tanielu Tele'a (Midfield/Wing)
Super Rugby games: 9 (Blues). Points: 20
Mitre 10 Cup games: 13 (Auckland). Points: 10
Having been available for Samoa, midfielder Tanielu Tele'a pitched his future with New Zealand when taking on a Super Rugby contract for 2019. Most of his opportunities have come on the wing, and were not helped when he copped a four-game suspension midway through campaign for a dangerous tackle on Stormers players Dillyn Leyds.
But, earlier in that game, he scored a try from 50m out to show the stunning ability he has with ball in hand. Yet another product of St Kentigern College, he prefers the midfield and if given the chance for game time there he threatens to test opposing defences. A strong runner he has the potential, and ability, to be one of an emerging group of Blues backs in the 2020 campaign.
Blues 2020 squad:
Beauden Barrett, Otere Black, Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Matt Duffie, Kurt Eklund, TJ Faiane, Blake Gibson, Josh Goodhue, Jack Heighton, Alex Hodgman, Jordan Hyland, Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Tony Lamborn, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Sione Mafileo, Joe Marchant, Emoni Narawa, Ray Niuia, Sam Nock, Jared Page, Dalton Papalii, James Parsons, Stephen Perofeta, Jacob Pierce, Harry Plummer, Marcel Renata, Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, Tom Robinson, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Mark Telea, Tanielu Tele'a, James Tucker, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tuungafasi, Baden Wardlaw.